Toy Blog - Toys, Parenting, and Kids

Reach That Budding Writer!

Here’s a quick and fun activity to do with your child to encourage creativity and writing.  If your child is not old enough to write yet, he or she can dictate the words or tell a story about what they see.

Browse through magazines and newspapers and cut out interesting pictures.  Glue them to construction paper and have your child create captions, stories or simply funny sayings for the characters pictured.  This is also a great activity to get a child involved with participating in a family scrapbook or album.  Let your child create captions for photos, or have him or her make “speech” bubbles or “thought” bubbles to go with the pictures.

This is an excellent way to get children thinking beyond what they know and to be creative with what they see.  With younger children, make a collection of simpler pictures, perhaps one or two objects in a frame, and record their reactions to the pictures.

This is a wonderful way to get ready for the more formal work of school while still having fun together.

Saying Goodbye To Friends

Our next door neighbors are preparing to move in a couple of months.  It is a fabulous opportunity for them, but it is a very sad prospect for us.  We couldn’t have chosen better neighbors.  Their children are right around the same age as ours, and we spend the majority of our afternoons in our front yards, watching the kids ride bikes or scooters back and forth, playing make believe games and trading off houses fo sleepovers with the older ones.  When they leave, it will be a huge adjustment.

Our children are aware their dear friends are moving, but I do not think they fully understand the concept.  With our three year old, that is to be expected.  He will probably ask for a playdate with them for about a week before moving on to something else to hold his interest.  My eight year old will understand the ramifications to our built-in playmates no longer being around.  That will be quite a change for him.  So, we are starting now with a good way to bring closure to their relationship as it is now.  It is important that my children understand what is going on and that their feelings are okay, no matter what they may be.

Our older child has already expressed some anxiety over the situation.  What if someone new moves in and doesn’t have children?  Why won’t we be able to visit our friends all the time?  When will we see our dear friends again?

Our neighborhood is comprised of an amazing blend of ages and stages, from young couples to families to retired and widowed.  So, to alleviate the concern over the new people that will move in, we have already made a point to meet them.  Their children are grown, but their grandchildren will visit from time to time, and we will enjoy meeting them when they are here.  We will need to be careful not to pick “flowers” in their yard anymore or rearrange the stones or draw with sidewalk chalk on their driveway, but I am sure it will be a good relationship with them.  We have also made a huge effort to connect with a few more people in our neighborhood of varying ages, simply to show the children that age does not define a friendship.  This will help make the transition to the new neighbors a more comfortable experience for my children.

The distance our neighbors are moving isn’t cross-country, but it is significant enough to realize any visiting will be an effort.  Fortunately, our neighbors are moving to a location that is along the route to my in-laws’ house, so we can plan to stop in for lunch or a visit when we are making a trip to see the grandparents.  Understanding that we will be able to see them again is helping ease some of the stress of losing a friend.

Since our children are so close, we have started a couple of projects to make the transition and move smoother for everyone.  In the next couple of weeks, each child will be given a disposable camera.  We will take pictures of each other doing some of our favorite activities: playing in the yard, picnics on the porch, a trip to the Children’s Museum or local park, playing board games and even sitting on the back porch with a pile of books.  Each child will create a memory book to keep of the fun times they have together.

We have also arranged for a “goodbye party” for our friends.  We are inviting a few pals from school as well as a couple of neighbors from our block to a cookout.  Our cookout will be during the week that our neighbors will be moving.  The last thing they want to have to worry about is cooking and cleaning, and it gives the children an opportunity to spend some time with their friends.  In addition to this, my children will be writing letters to their friends prior to their move and mailing the letters to our friends’ new home.  Our friends will be excited to get mail at their new house, and hopefully this will help ease some of their issues with the move. 

While losing such a close set of friends will be a new experience for my children, I think that they will adjust well.  As a parent, it is my responsibility to recognize the feelings and emotions related with such a loss and help my children work through it.  With good communication and recognition of my children’s feelings, they will both find the experience to be healthy and positive.

Letters to Travis

My mother-in-law started a project almost 8 years ago that has evolved into an Event each August.  She hand-wrote a letter to her first-born grandson, my son, Travis. 

The letter was a recap of events from his first year and her thoughts and feelings for him.  It ended up being two full pages by the time she finished, transcribed onto some beautiful paper and placed in sheet protectors in a binder.  We placed the binder on the bookshelf in his room, a treasure among his treasures.

Each year, my mother-in-law slips a letter into his binder, a reflection of his year, the feelings she has for him, and the hope she has for him in the ages to come.  Each year, a letter on one or two pages, lovingly written and placed in the binder.  And each year, I sit down and read the letters, from beginning to end, marveling at the growth of my child and the amazing relationship he has with his grandmother.

Composing a letter to a child each year is a small gift with insurmountable meaning.  It is a treasure and a keepsake, a reflection of the past and a hope for the future.  Start a letter binder for that special child in your life.

Consider stepping it up a bit and binding the letters into a book!

Integrating Memories With Pre-Reading

When my older son was beginning to show an interest in reading, we looked for ways to encourage his interest without pressuring him to learn to read (he was four at the time).  I have observed, much too often in my preschool-teaching days, parents who want their child to succeed at reading to the degree that the child becomes completely turned off of the idea of understanding the written word.  Combining things children love with print can encourage the child to want to know more about how words work and what reading is all about.

As it happened, our family was preparing for a long, fun-filled weekend at the beach.  So, I included a disposable camera for my son to use on our trip.  Disposable cameras are so inexpensive now, so they make excellent choices for preschoolers and grade-schoolers alike as far as creating their own pictoral journal of the event.  My son was thrilled with his new “toy”, and since there were 27 exposures on it, we let him take a few up front to get a feel for how the camera worked.

Once we were on our trip, our son took pictures of everything – the ferry we rode to get to the beach house, the shells he found on the shoreline, the top of my husband’s head with seagulls flying overhead.  He even took pictures of the inside of the house we stayed in and pictures out the car window on the way home (it was raining).  Everywhere our son went, the camera went as well.

At home, we sent the camera off to be developed and picked up our pictures shortly thereafter.  For a couple of days, I simply let my son look at his pictures, talking about them, remembering certain things that happened and different places we visited.  Then, he and I sat down with his ten favorite pictures.  We glued one on each page and then we wrote a simple sentence about that photo.  I stapled the pages into a book, and suddenly, our son had a book that he essentially wrote and could read!

Creating his own story gave our son ownership of his words.  He understood what all the words said, and he quickly realized that the words on the page stayed the same, they never changed.  He took it to his grandparents’ house to show them, to his preschool to show his teacher, and he even packed it in his bag for a playdate a couple of months later.  Creating his own story was the perfect way to encourage our son to be a reader (and a writer!).

No Time To Scrapbook? Have I Got A Site For You!

Picaboo is an amazing site where you upload your pictures onto templates, and the company binds them into a book for you!  I have seen the product first-hand, and it is truly beautiful.  You can check out some samples on their website.  And, even though I was initially turned off by the price of these projects, I realized in the end that, after I spend all that money on an album, paper, stickers, die cuts, markers, tape and such, the price can’t be beat.

So, for all you non-scrappy people out there…help is available!

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